Not long ago, the conflict between the USA and USSR was named "mutually assured destruction," Herman Kahn described this policy in a book titled "Thinking About the Unthinkable."
Most people think civilization has pulled back from this precipice. However, 6 billion people are building possibly a worse confrontation.
The conflict is between people who see their well being diminished and a group they think is causing it.
This new confrontation is different from national, regional, or economic groups lining up against each other in arms races, revolutions, picket lines, and market places.
These new conflicts are described by suicide bombers (self chosen to represent "losers of wellbeing") attacking the present "holders of well being."
The objective of these bombers is to stop the holders of wellbeing from depressing the well being of the losers any further.
However, their efforts are futile.
Even if they were successful in eliminating the current holders:
In this confrontation both sides are blind. The bombers do not see their success is still failure. The holders have no idea about their vulnerability to forces that confront them. Both fail to see that continuing down this path is ridiculously painful for most people and barely tolerable for the rest.
As long as:
There is no protection from suicide bombers, except keeping them separated from the rest of the community. Yet we have no mechanism, like the great wall of China, to create this separation.
They already live among us. The newest suicide bomber is a person who just unwillingly transferred down from better times.
If separation will not work, the conflict can be ended only when the dynamic is reversed and the disenfranchised see themselves as EVER MORE re-enfranchised.
As long as civilization creates or maintains these desperate people. As long as the disenfranchised grow in number or increase in desperation, few if anyone will be safe from them.
When will we realize that these dynamics have always existed? When will we realize that institutions and their leaders are rally points for conflict not their cause? When will we realize that the cause is us -- six billion individuals, trying to create families and provide for them?
It's easier to believe that "We are different from unconscious animal life, who, to survive, must attack the weak and flee the strong." We, the intelligent animals, want to hold on to the myth that we are created both smart and good. That the last 40 years was not a fluke of nature. It was more than just a brief moment in human history when, our cognition, technology, and access to exhaustible reservoirs, demonstrated a life without scarcity and conflict to our kids in the suburbs.
However, if you understand the dynamics explained above, you know scarcity and conflict have never been banished from the human experiment. Instead they have been displaced from the lives of a few lucky people who can live in gated communities, drink bottled water and have their kids exempted from the army that protects their gates.
The conflict that is coming our way will make the animal kingdom's fights for territory and mates look benign.
Our levels of wellbeing, far above subsistence, should tell us something about how far we can fall.
While what we have to lose is difficult to imagine, when we grasp it, we might understand how hard, and by what means, we will fight to retrain our privilege.
Imagine that if 3000 lives taken by Al Queda allowed an American president to go to Afghanistan and Iraq, a nuclear bomb in NYC, killing millions, would allow him to kill every militant anywhere. Anyone with more than $500 and a justification to be desperate could be killed or imprisoned to prevent another such event.
The confrontation we face is endless. It could reduce human existence to near subsistence.
Is this picture unpleasant enough to start you thinking unthinkable thoughts? Do we need to progress farther down this path to think about the unthinkable?
You will have to decide if this view of the future is more unthinkable than an alternative which causes the population to drop at a rate that will allow people to achieve progress toward their perceived needs rapid enough to eliminate the need for violence.